Therapeutic targeting of a novel 6-substituted pyrrolo [2,3-d]pyrimidine thienoyl antifolate to human solid tumors based on selective uptake by the proton-coupled folate transporter.

Graduate Program in Cancer Biology, Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit, Michigan, USA.
Molecular pharmacology (Impact Factor: 4.53). 09/2011; 80(6):1096-107. DOI: 10.1124/mol.111.073833
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The proton-coupled folate transporter (PCFT) is a proton-folate symporter with an acidic pH optimum. By real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction, PCFT was expressed in the majority of 53 human tumor cell lines, with the highest levels in Caco-2 (colorectal adenocarcinoma), SKOV3 (ovarian), and HepG2 (hepatoma) cells. A novel 6-substituted pyrrolo[2,3-d]pyrimidine thienoyl antifolate (compound 1) was used to establish whether PCFT can deliver cytotoxic drug under pH conditions that mimic the tumor microenvironment. Both 1 and pemetrexed (Pmx) inhibited proliferation of R1-11-PCFT4 HeLa cells engineered to express PCFT without the reduced folate carrier (RFC) and of HepG2 cells expressing both PCFT and RFC. Unlike Pmx, 1 did not inhibit proliferation of R1-11-RFC6 HeLa cells, which express RFC without PCFT. Treatment of R1-11-PCFT4 cells at pH 6.8 with 1 or Pmx inhibited colony formation with dose and time dependence. Transport of [(3)H]compound 1 into R1-11-PCFT4 and HepG2 cells was optimal at pH 5.5 but appreciable at pH 6.8. At pH 6.8, [(3)H]compound 1 was metabolized to (3)H-labeled polyglutamates. Glycinamide ribonucleotide formyltransferase (GARFTase) in R1-11-PCFT4 cells was inhibited by 1 at pH 6.8, as measured by an in situ GARFTase assay, and was accompanied by substantially reduced ATP levels. Compound 1 caused S-phase accumulation and a modest level of apoptosis. An in vivo efficacy trial with severe combined immunodeficient mice implanted with subcutaneous HepG2 tumors showed that compound 1 was active. Our findings suggest exciting new therapeutic possibilities to selectively deliver novel antifolate drugs via transport by PCFT over RFC by exploiting the acidic tumor microenvironment.

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    ABSTRACT: The proton-coupled folate transporter (PCFT) mediates intestinal folate absorption, and loss-of-function mutations in this gene result in the autosomal recessive disorder hereditary folate malabsorption. The current study, focused on a structure-functional analysis of this transporter, identified Gly-189 and Gly-192 (a GxxG motif) located in the fifth transmembrane domain as residues that could not be replaced with alanine without a loss of function. In contrast, function was preserved when Gly-56 and Gly-59 (the other conservative GXXG motif in human PCFT) were replaced with alanine. Similarly, Gly-93 and Gly-97, which constitute the only conserved GXXXG dimerization motif in human PCFT, tolerated alanine substitution. To explore the role of this region in folate binding, the residues around Gly-189 and Gly-192 were analyzed by the substituted cysteine accessibility method. Both I188C and M193C mutants were functional and were inhibited by membrane-impermeable sulfhydryl-reactive reagents; this could be prevented with PCFT substrate, but the protection was sustained at 0°C only for the I188C mutant, consistent with localization of Ile-188 in the PCFT folate binding pocket. The functional role of residues around Gly-189 and Gly-192 is consistent with a molecular structural model in which these two residues along with Ieu-188 are accessible to the PCFT aqueous translocation pathway.
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